National Press Club

From one Prez to another: Virtual Obama greets President Hamrick at fun-filled inaugural

January 31, 2011

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

President Obama delivers his congratulations to Mark Hamrick on becoming the 104th President of The National Press Club.
Full Video

National Press Club President Mark Hamrick wants to bring President Barack Obama to the Club for an event in 2011.

During his inaugural dinner on Jan. 29, Hamrick came close to achieving that goal. Obama greeted the packed ballroom through a video message.

“From one president to another, I want to congratulate Mark Hamrick for being chosen to lead the National Press Club this year,” Obama said.

In his brief remarks, Obama said that journalism “is more important than ever” and called the profession “a pillar of democracy.”

Obama’s message reflected the theme of the evening. Amid a roast of Hamrick that played heavily on his Kansas roots, several speakers also touched on challenges facing journalism at a time when the Internet is changing what it means to be a reporter.

In his speech, Hamrick emphasized the value that news gathering and editorial judgment adds to content in whatever form it is presented.

“Great journalism has made and continues to make a difference,” Hamrick said.

Even as things change, the essential function of journalism stays the same – parsing and presenting the most critical information to readers, listeners and viewers, said renowned broadcaster and keynote speaker Bill Kurtis.

“Journalism is going to have to morph into a new role, which is an old role,” said Kurtis, like Hamrick a native of Kansas.

Hamrick is well positioned to lead the Club during a period of technological change in the profession, according to his boss at the Associated Press, where Hamrick is an award-winning business and financial reporter using video, radio and text.

“He’s embraced multi-format journalism,” said Kevin Roach, vice president and director of U.S. broadcast news at AP. “Mark shows great leadership in the newsroom.”

The evening was filled with testimonials from Hamrick’s current and former colleagues, leavened with good-natured ribbing.

The roster was filled with Kansas politerati, including video greetings from the state’s two U.S. senators, Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, as well as Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, former Kansas governor. Kansas native and Hollywood producer Chuck Bowman spoke at the inaugural.

The evening highlighted Hamrick’s background, which spans from his first experience in broadcasting as a teenager at KGGF-AM in his hometown of Coffeyville, Kansas, to the University of Kansas, where he worked at KANU-FM, to Buffalo, where he worked for a couple radio and TV stations.

Hamrick has been in the AP Washington bureau for 25 years after starting his tenure with the news service in Dallas.

Now Hamrick, who was sworn in by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, is a taking on a new challenge leading the National Press Club, where he also has served as chairman of the board and membership secretary.

He said that under his direction, the Club will strive for higher profile luncheon speakers who will make strong news impact. The first of his tenure will be Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Feb. 3. The Club also has invited the three network nightly news anchors to be luncheon speakers.

Hamrick will focus on illuminating and carrying on the Club’s heritage as the world’s leading organization for journalists. One highlight will be the United Nations hosting World Press Freedom Day at the Club in May.

He also wants to strengthen the Club’s efforts to train journalists in the new tools they’ll need in an online environment and enhance the Club’s role as a networking hub.

It will be a busy year for Hamrick.

“It’s a bit surreal,” he said of becoming Club president. “It’s like winning the lottery, just without the money.”

-- Mark Schoeff Jr.,

Click Here for More Video from the Hamrick Inaugural Gala